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Reich v. Purcell

Supreme Court of California
442 P.2d 727 (1967)


A vehicle driven by Joseph Purcell (defendant) collided with a car driven by the wife of Lee Reich (plaintiff) in Missouri. The Reichs were on their way to California at the time, because they were thinking about moving to California. Reich’s wife and son, Jay, were killed in the crash and another son, Jeffry, was seriously injured. At the time of the crash, Purcell was a resident of California and the Reichs were residents of Ohio. Later, Reich and his surviving son Jeffry moved to California. The estates of Mrs. Reich and Jay were administered in Ohio. Reich, as a resident of California, filed a wrongful death suit in California state court against Purcell. Purcell and Reich stipulated that a judgment be entered by the trial court awarding damages for the wrongful death of Jay, for the personal injuries to Jeffry, and for the damages sustained to Reich’s car. Additionally, Purcell and Reich stipulated to damages of either $25,000 or $55,000 depending upon the trial court’s determination of the applicable law. A Missouri statute limited recovery in a wrongful death case to $25,000. Neither California nor Ohio had a similar statutory cap. The trial court applied Missouri law because the accident occurred in Missouri. The trial court entered a judgment of $25,000 for the wrongful death of Mrs. Reich, and Reich appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Traynor, C.J.)

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